Written by Karen Stoner; NittanyWeddings.com
Imagine that everyone is having a great time at your reception, and suddenly the best man decides it would be fun to do a Tarzan-type swing on the venue’s chandelier and crashes into the photographer, breaking the camera (and the chandelier). Or your cousin sees one of the decor lights and decides it would be a cool addition to his dorm room, so he casually grabs it as he walks to his car. Accidents can also happen - what if Aunt Mabel leans her cane against a table, and it falls over and shatters a mirror?
Who is responsible? Is it the guest? Or is it the person who is in charge of the party (aka - the bride and groom)? Or is everyone responsible for taking care of themselves?
You can’t control your guests being stupid or accidents from happening, but there are measures you can take to make sure that anything bad that happens doesn’t cause too many problems for you. Many wedding professionals that provide physical goods or items have clauses written into their contracts that state that in the case of damage or theft, the bride and groom (or whoever is signing the contract to use the items) is responsible for the return and condition of those items or else they will be charged a fee to repair/replace the item. In some cases, rental companies may have the couple opt for a “Damage Waiver” - either an additional fee or a deposit that covers any damage or theft that occurs while the items are being used by the couple. If there is no signed waiver, or the “renters” opt out of the waiver, the couple may be responsible for paying back the full price of the missing/damaged item (and you would be surprised at how much some of those things cost).
Some good news: All of your wedding professionals have, or SHOULD HAVE, insurance that protects them and their equipment from theft or damage. (Side note: If your wedding professional doesn’t have insurance, they are most likely not a seasoned and trusted Wedding Professional, and could end up causing you more headaches than you want.) However, before thinking “Oh, it’s ok, they have insurance, I can do whatever I want to them” - just like all insurance, there are deductibles that have to be met, and rules that must be followed. Some professionals might say “It’s ok, I have insurance”, but others could still charge the couple if the damage or loss doesn’t meet the deductible and it must be paid for out-of-pocket. In the case of theft, insurance companies require a police report to be filed reporting the theft and the conditions of the theft - so your names could potentially get dragged in front of the police whether you are responsible for the theft or not. It’s your party - your responsibility.
So there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
1. Many couples opt to purchase wedding insurance. This can cover just about anything that happens - from something getting damaged to your venue getting flooded, to a wedding professional going bankrupt the week before your wedding. Many reputable insurance companies offer this protection. Plus, it may be available through or as part of your homeowner’s insurance. Just ask your agent if it is something that they can cover or add.
2. Keep a good relationship with your Wedding Professionals. If you work well with your pro, and feel like you can talk comfortably with them, they may be willing to let you try to fix the situation or be more lenient with the penalties.
3. Read your contracts. You should always be familiar with the fine print, even involving the stuff you don’t want to think about happening. Every wedding professional in every category is different, and the fine print varies depending on what exactly the pro is providing.
4. Keep an open dialogue with your guests, before and after the wedding. You never want to say to your guests “Ok now, nobody get drunk and go nuts”, but if something goes missing or is damaged, and the culprit is unknown, don’t be afraid to ask at the brunch, or send out a message to your guests asking about it. You don’t have to be harsh or worry about people thinking you are accusing them of anything: "Thanks for coming to my wedding. We hope you had fun. Our lighting designer discovered that a light had been taken from the venue at some point during the night. If you know anything about it, please either contact the designer or feel free to message me privately to discuss it."Short and simple. If anyone gives you angry replies, then you can explain to them individually that your lighting designer may be charging you $300 for the missing light if it isn’t recovered. Handle negativity on an as-needed and private basis so as not to disrupt all of your guests.
Bottom line, you can try to make your wedding perfect in every way, but you can’t control everything that your guests do, and sometimes stuff …happens, whether an accident or not. Overall, it is your party - you are ultimately responsible for your party. If you get stuck with something bad happening, the best thing to do is to keep an open dialogue with the pros who suffered damage, and take responsibility as needed. You can always go after the culprit on your own in whatever way you need to afterwards. Just remember that your wedding day is about having a fun time with the people you love. You do love them for a reason - no matter what happens.
Thank you to the Wedding Professionals who contributed input to this article:
Mae McQuade; The Chatelaine B&B
Katelyn Rimmey; .benches
Holly Krugel; H&K Weddings & Events
Eric Stoner; NIttany Entertainment
Jan Thiessen; Photographs by Jan Thiessen